[Federal Register: May 8, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 90)]
[Notices]               
[Page 26075-26076]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr08my08-41]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
San Juan National Forest; Columbine Ranger District; Colorado; 
Hermosa Land Exchange Analysis

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: The San Juan National Forest is studying a proposal for a land 
exchange whereby Tamarron Properties Associates would offer 330 acres 
of non-Federal lands to the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for 265 
acres of National Forest System lands and an easement for a new road. 
Any exchange would require by law that the appraised value of the 
properties be equal. The non-Federal properties include two inholdings 
adjacent to the Hermosa Roadless area; Mitchell Lakes and Hermosa 
Creek. The third inholding is a mining claim located in the Weminuche 
Wilderness area along the Whitehead Gulch Trail southeast of Silverton. 
Mitchell Lakes parcel is specifically located in T. 37 N., R. 9 W, 
Section 23 ; Hermosa Park T. 39 N., R. 10 W., Section 24, La Plata 
County, The Iron Clad Mining Claim is located in Section 11, T. 40 N., 
R. 7 W., N.M.P.M., Columbine Ranger District, San Juan National Forest, 
Colorado.

DATES: Formal scoping on the proposed land exchange began on June 11, 
2007 and ended on September 10, 2007. Two public open houses were held 
June 21 and 25, 2007. Public field trips to the parcels were held June 
28 and 29, 2007. The draft environmental impact statement is expected 
in September 2008 and the final environmental impact statement is 
expected in December 2008.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information contact Cindy 
Hockelberg, Columbine Public Lands, POB 439, 367 South Pearl Street, 
Bayfield, CO 81122; e-mail chockelberg@fs.fed.us., telephone 970-884-
1418.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of and need for action is for (1) more consolidated 
Federal and private ownership that reduces cost of Federal management 
and increases management efficiency; and (2) acquisition of significant 
non-Federal inholdings within the San Juan National Forest in visible 
and frequented locations so they are not available for development; and 
(3) additional Federal jurisdiction within Congressionally designated 
wilderness or other parcels such as wetlands, floodplains, and riparian 
areas that provide habitat for threatened or endangered species.
    The Forest Service is directed to achieve the optimum landownership 
pattern to provide for the protection and management of resource uses 
to meet the needs of the nation now and in the future.
    Further, the Forest Service is to complete land-for-land exchanges 
to consolidate National Forest System and private, State, or local 
government land patterns, to permit needed urban or industrial 
expansion; or to make other adjustments in landownership in the public 
interest.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is to complete a land exchange whereby the 
Forest Service would acquire three non-Federal parcels located within 
the boundaries of the San Juan National Forest and convey a Federal 
parcel and road easement for a new road to private ownership.

Possible Alternatives

    The following alternatives have been preliminarily identified:
    Alternative 1: This alternative is the No Action Alternative. The 
proposed project as described above would not occur.
    Alternative 2: This alternative is the proposed action and the 
project would occur as described above. This alternative was presented 
in the public scoping that occurred during the summer of 2007.
    Alternative 3: This alternative is responsive to trail use and 
moves the northern boundary of the Federal parcel south of the 
proponent's proposed location. The northern boundary for Alternative 3 
would keep the trails immediately south and adjacent to the Chris Park 
wetland in Federal ownership. This alternative would include a road 
easement and limit use. Restrictions on road use for this

[[Page 26076]]

alternative, in addition to 4 and 5 may affect the appraised value.
    Alternative 4: This alternative would be the same as Alternative 3 
but would not include the road easement. Like Alternative 3, this 
alternative is responsive to the concerns expressed by trail users and 
will help address visual concerns.
    Alternative 5: This alternative would not include a substantial 
portion of the federal parcel, as described in the proposed 
alternative. The alternative is designed to preserve major portions of 
the wagon road and some wetlands. This alternative would not include 
the road easement and more directly addresses cultural and recreation 
concerns. A trade-off of this alternative is that acquisition of both 
large non-Federal parcels may not be possible due to the requirement 
that the exchange be equal value.

Responsible Official

    Mark W. Stiles, Center Manager, San Juan Public Lands, 15 Burnett 
Court, Durango, CO 81301.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    Given the purpose and need, the deciding official reviews the 
proposed action and the other alternatives in order to make the 
following decisions: Will the proposed land exchange occur as proposed, 
as modified under the various alternatives, or not at all. If the 
exchange proceeds what mitigation measures will the Forest Service 
apply to the project?

Scoping Process

    Formal scoping has already occurred on this project as described 
above; comments received indicate that there may be significant impacts 
for which an EIS is the appropriate level of analysis. Informal scoping 
responses may be submitted to Cindy Hockelberg (contact information 
above), if there is an issue that has not been identified.

Preliminary Issues

    During review of all public comments and internal input, the Forest 
Service has identified the following concerns or issues with the 
proposal: Recreation, particularly with regard to Chris Park campground 
and the trails that have been created in the area; The Animas Wagon 
road and its historical status; Socio-economic issues related to 
tourism and special use permittees who use the area; Visual impacts to 
those areas that are sensitive, including Highway 550 and Chris Park 
Campground; Wildlife impacts that may occur to a potential wildlife 
corridor on the Federal parcel; Wetlands and hydrology, particularly 
with regard to quality of wetlands on all parcels; and how the non-
Federal parcels will be managed if they are acquired.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review: A draft environmental impact statement will be 
prepared for comment. The comment period on the draft environmental 
impact statement will be 45 days from the date the Environmental 
Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability in the Federal 
Register. This is expected to occur around September 2008.
    The Forest Service believes, at this early stage, it is important 
to give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public 
participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of 
draft environmental impact statements must structure their 
participation in the environmental review of the proposal so that it is 
meaningful and alerts an agency to the reviewer's position and 
contentions. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519, 
553 (1978). Also, environmental objections that could be raised at the 
draft environmental impact statement stage but that are not raised 
until after completion of the final environmental impact statement may 
be waived or dismissed by the courts. City of Angoon v. Hodel, 803 F.2d 
1016, 1022 (9th Cir. 1986) and Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. v. Harris, 490 
F. Supp. 1334, 1338 (E.D. Wis. 1980). Because of these court rulings, 
it is very important that those interested in this proposed action 
participate by the close of the 45 day comment period so that comments 
and objections are made available to the Forest Service at a time when 
it can meaningfully consider them and respond to them in the final 
environmental impact statement.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft 
environmental impact statement should be as specific as possible. It is 
also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the 
draft statement. Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft 
environmental impact statement or the merits of the alternatives 
formulated and discussed in the statement. Reviewers may wish to refer 
to the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for implementing 
the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act at 
40 CFR 1503.3 in addressing these points.
    Comments received, including the names and addresses of those who 
comment, will be considered part of the public record on this proposal 
and will be available for public inspection.

    Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook 
1909.15, Section 21.

    Dated: May 1, 2008.
Mark W. Stiles,
Center Manager.
 [FR Doc. E8-10223 Filed 5-7-08; 8:45 am]

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